The Alliance, a not-for-profit employer-owned health care cooperative, was founded in 1990 by seven large Dane County employers. They faced significant increases in the cost of their employee health care and lacked access to their health care data to understand why.
“We were one of the first business coalitions in the country,” says Cheryl DeMars, president and chief executive officer of The Alliance. “The idea of employers joining together to take control of health care costs and quality was new at the time. There were risks involved, but for our founders, the risk of doing nothing was even greater.”
The Alliance provides services including access to a broad network of providers, a data warehouse, education options and networking opportunities with other employers and thought-leaders. Access to The Alliance’s data is key in helping employers make more informed decisions. The organization also offers strategies to help employers drive high-value health care by focusing on the four core drivers that employers can influence to improve health care value: transparency of cost and quality information, provider network design, payment reform and customized benefit plans.
Since 1990, The Alliance has grown from those seven employers in Dane County to more than 250 self-funded employers across the Midwest. The goal is to grow to meet the needs of current and prospective members and to achieve critical mass to drive real change in the market.
Despite the proliferation of health care cooperatives around the country, many still don’t contract directly with providers as The Alliance has done from the start. According to DeMars, that is beginning to change.
“Creating a way for employers to take control in an industry where they often feel powerless is a compelling value proposition,” she says. “And that’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years.”
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